Charles here, and I've got a problem. It's not an epic important problem, nothing that will elicit meaningful commentary, but it's a problem nonetheless.
I just spent a wonderful week in Lumberton, NC, doing a series of small events and capping the whole thing off with a grand event at the auditorium. Fellow author and rising Lumberton star, Trish Terrell and her hubby Don were my gracious hosts, and I was treated like a superstar by Bob Fisher, the Director of the Robeson County Public Library. But just as kind and helpful and truly wonderful were all the people I met in Lumberton. They were all great, every one of them, and they all shared these wild stories that were just crazy enough to be true. “You know what you ought to do?” I heard again and again. “You ought to set your next book right here in Lumberton.”
And that leads to my problem.
I write books where bad things happen to good people. I can never understand authors who say that they ‘love’ their characters and ‘enjoy spending time with them’. Well, I must be a closet sadist because I’m happiest with my writing when I’m making my characters miserable. I love to rip away the pleasant veneer we see when we travel, spending more time in the seedy lowlife hotspots than I do in the places the locals want you to see. My books include the red light districts, drug dens, filthy prisons and rat-infested hotels and they're populated, mostly, by immoral, self-serving con-artists, petty thieves, hookers with no hearts of gold, and soul-less killers.
And you want me to write a book that takes place in your town? Sorry, Lumberton, I can’t do it.
I’m sure that somewhere in Lumberton there are versions of all the things I put in my books, versions of all the types of people I like to write about, but I didn’t see any of it. And you know what? I’m glad.
It seems that every time I travel to a city I go out of my way to find the things no one usually goes to find, and more often than not I find them and in one form or another they end up in my books. When I was in Lumberton I went to luncheons hosted by the local and Kiwanis, has honored at a dinner party at the beautiful home of Dr. John and Farleigh Rozier, and ate like a pig at the potluck dinner at the Episcopal Church. I didn’t have time look for the dark side and frankly I didn’t want to.
The Lumberton I saw was a pleasant, attractive and caring community, one filled with good people doing good things, where the very divers population gets along well, where the kids are all polite and the future is looking bright and folks are proud to say they’ve lived there all their life. Is there another Lumberton? Sure there is, but I don’t want to know it.
So I won’t be writing a book based on Lumberton and the people I met while I was there.
I liked it all too much.